Updated: Jul 20
"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon," Emil Zatopek
Emil Zatopek was a Czechoslovakian long-distance runner, best known for winning three gold medals in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He won gold in both the 5,000m and 10,000m events. Zatopek’s third medal came when he won the marathon event, having decided at the last minute to compete, though he’d never done one before. He was later nicknamed the 'Czech Locomotive'.
I'd say Zatopek knew a thing or two about running.
Living through this pandemic right now feels a lot like running a marathon. But how do we keep going when it seems there’s no end in sight?
Lately, I've been reflecting on endurance and resilience - qualities essential to succeeding at long-distance running. I think of Endurance as bearing the weight of something heavy for a long time or persevering for a long time. Resilience is more about getting back up after being hit by something in life.
For some things, I’m better at keeping going than others. So, maybe that is a good place to start: by asking ourselves, “Where do I have endurance? And where do I find it harder to keep going?”
For example, I can write for hours. I enjoy the process, I can focus. But the physical act of running? Well, for that I don’t have stamina at all! I keep planning to be a runner. That’s it - I am a planner runner.
And then there are situations, like the one we are in right now, where you don’t have a choice; you just have to find a way to keep going.
So, how do we do that? Here are 7 suggestions that might help:
1. Use what has worked in the past
Think about times when you have just had to push through. What helped? What didn’t help?
2. Shift the weight around
Imagine you are carrying several parcels, and someone adds one to the pile in your arms. What would you do? You’d probably move the parcels around a bit, to enable you to balance the extra parcel along with all the others. So, ask yourself, What task are you doing now that you could move? Maybe do it at a different time of day, or day of the week - when you can be more productive.
3. Let go
Maybe it is time to put one of those parcels down. What can wait a few days? Are you doing something that is actually someone else’s responsibility? Is there anything that you can ask someone else to take on?
4. One thing at a time
I was reading an article the other day about US Navy SEAL training. Sean Kernan was writing about the ‘Four Habits of Discipline’ his SEAL dad had taught him, and something caught my eye. During Hell Week, the harshest week of training, Kernan wrote: “The people who succeed only look a few minutes in front of them. They don’t worry about Thursday or Friday. They are only focused on each individual exercise. They get through it one thing at a time.”
5. Make your own deadline
This may seem that it doesn’t fit with only doing one task at a time, but it is complementary. We know it can help to break down big tasks into smaller ‘chunks’. So, try setting an artificial “deadline” to get the big task done, then work backwards from there to create milestones for the smaller activities.
6. Enjoy the view
Haruki Murakami is a Japanese writer, who has run the Boston Marathon 6 times. When he’s running, he loves to look around and take in what he sees. He writes: “I think the best aspects of the marathon are the beautiful changes of the scenery along the route and the warmth of the people's support. I feel happier every time I enter this marathon.” Maybe Murakami can inspire us to enjoy our surroundings too, even when we find it hard to keep going.
7. Have hope
“Each day brings new life, new strength, new dreams and new hope. May you find courage, confidence and hope to reach out for your dreams.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita
Coming back to Emil Zatopek's quote, here's my final question to you (and to myself):
If living through a pandemic is like running a marathon, and running a marathon is a life-changing experience, then how will it change you? How might you see the world differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts - do get in touch using the social media links below.